BELIEVE it, or believe it not, the towering succulent in Derek Bean’s Bembridge garden is a tiddler by Furcraea parmentieri standards.

It is more than 15ft tall and its lance-shaped leaves stretch out more than 5ft. But the record, for the world’s biggest flowering spike set in its native climes, is nearly three times that.

Derek was very delighted if a tad surprised, by the magnificence of the inflorescence with its long pendulous branches laden with large, greeny-cream flowers which are a bee magnet and took a month to bloom.

“Many years ago we spent lots of summers on a particular farm in Cornwall — and when we left we were given this little plant,” says Derek. “He had a grin on his face; I could not think why, but now I know...

Isle of Wight County Press:

Derek's Furcraea is a stunning sight.

Derek continued: “I like to grow plants and allow them to grow as they want to, but I am usually able to keep them under control, which makes for happy, relaxed, plants and in turn a happy and relaxed gardener.”

Derek is already arranging to have the massive spike felled when it has finished its wonderful show — because it will be its first, and last. Like many of its kind it will flower just the once and then die.

But, don’t rush to the tree feller, Derek, because, given a fair wind, it will produce seeds which fall to the ground and germinate in-situ or can be planted and grown-on to produce more plants. But it could be up to 25 years before they flower!

Botanic gardens, such as ours at Ventnor, circumvent this problem by having Furcraea clumps of plants of different ages so there is a more than very good chance that they will all flower in different years.

When they reach a certain age a series of warm summers and mild winters are probably what persuades this extraordinary plant to bloom.

But, even when they don’t blossom, the monocarpic Furcraea produces a handsome dense rosette of glaucous, large, sword-shaped leaves which in themselves make a garden statement.

Furcraea is a genus of 21 species of perennial succulents from desert-like areas of the West Indies, Central, North and South America.

As you may expect from that they don’t like sitting in wet conditions that will cause them to rot and they appreciate protection from snow or hard frosts, although on the Isle of Wight most years we will probably get away with it. If you grow this plant in the greenhouse treat it like a cactus or succulent and apply a nitrogen fertiliser once a month and dry the plant off in winter.

They are available from garden centres, but probably more appropriate for younger gardeners than I...


  • Seven Arreton gardens, including Arreton Manor and Haseley Manor, will be open tomorrow (Sunday, July 18) between noon and 4.30 to raise money for WightDASH/WOW and Isle of Wight scouts.

There’s the added bonus for your fiver entry (children free) of a plant stall and cream teas at Haseley. Tickets can be bought at any of the gardens. Parking is free at Haseley, the car park to the left of Farmer Jacks and the community car park to the right of the White Lion Pub.

WightDASH is a charity which supports women who have, or are, experiencing domestic abuse and WOW is the Newport centre where courses and sessions are run to help and support women.

The scouts have, of course, suffered from a lack of income through Covid and greatly need support.


  • There’s still time to plant basil, that herb which is inseparable from tomatoes in a salad. It makes a great companion plant to toms too — whitefly hate it.
  • Boost your tomato and cucumber crops by regularly feeding plants with dilute tomato fertiliser once a week. If leaves look pale and yellow, feed more regularly. Remember toms and cues are said not to like growing near one another.
  • Pick your courgettes before they turn into marrows. Regular harvesting will encourage more.
  • Check for cabbage white butterfly eggs under brassica leaves and squish any that you find. Caterpillars will decimate sprouts, purple sprouting and cabbage.
  • Regularly deadhead bedding and perennial plants to encourage new blooms for as long as possible.
  • Take softwood cuttings to make new plants from old favourites for next year.
  • Cutting back growth in hanging baskets will revive the display if it is fading.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard - or news of an open gardens event? You can email him at: